Updated: 3:19 PM PDT, April 12, 2021
The House Judiciary Committee plans to review and vote on a bill on Wednesday that would create a commission to examine the implications of slavery from 1619 to the present and develop reparations proposals for eligible Black Americans.
If the legislation is reported out of committee, it would set up the first floor vote on the measure since its introduction in 1989, CBS News reported.
House Resolution 40, or the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, was first introduced by the late Michigan Representative John Conyers. Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat in the 18th congressional district who sponsored the legislation, told CBS News this “is what we call the next step.”
“America has never acknowledged the original sin, and that if you look at African Americans today, the disparities that were entrenched in slavery still exist,” Lee said.
Jackson Lee wrote in a May 2020 ACLU article that “though many thought it a lost cause, he [John Conyers] believed that a day would come when our nation would need to account for the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism endemic to our society.”
“With the rise and normalization of white supremacist expression during the Trump administration, the discussion of H.R. 40 and the concept of restorative justice have gained more urgency, garnering the attention of mainstream commentators and illustrating the need for a national reckoning,” she said.
The bill was first introduced in Congress on Jan. 3, 2019, and did not receive a vote, according to congress.gov.
The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. It will also work to identify the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering negative effects of slavery on living African Americans and society, according to congress.gov.
“I think people want healing,” Jackson Lee told CBS News. “They want repair and they understand that reparations is not an injustice, it is just.”
The bill was reintroduced at the beginning of this year after the committee held a high-profile hearing on it in 2019, on Juneteenth, the day many celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Witnesses included actor Danny Glover, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, CBS reported.
“As a nation, we have yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality,” Booker testified.